M7.3 earthquake strikes off northern Japan, tsunami warnings issued

by Artemis on December 7, 2012

Japan has suffered another major earthquake off the coast of Honshu island and a tsunami warning has been issued for the coast of Tohoku region. The same region that saw such immense damage from the March 2011 quake and tsunami is now under a tsunami warning. The first tsunami waves of 20cm struck minutes ago and the latest reports say a 1 metre tsunami has been recorded in Ishinomaki.

10.22am GMT: All tsunami warnings and advisories have now been cancelled. There are no reports of major damage. We will not update this post any further.

At this time there are no reports of damage from the earthquake itself, however it is the evening and dark in Japan and it will be difficult to understand whether any property damage has occurred from the shaking of the quake or from the tsunami waves that followed until more details emerge.

The earthquake has been classified as another aftershock of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

Earthquake location:

The earthquake struck approximately 150 miles off the east coast of Honshu, around 285 miles from Tokyo and at a depth of 23 miles, according to the USGS. Buildings shook in Tokyo for around a minute but there are no damage reports from the capital.

Map of northeast Japan earthquake location

Map of northeast Japan earthquake location

Tsunami warnings:

Tsunami warnings are only for the coast of Japan, with no expectation of a Pacific basin wide event.

The first tsunami struck at around 9.05am GMT (18:05pm local time), when a 20cm wave was reported in Miyagi prefecture. This was followed shortly afterwards by a 1m high tsunami wave reported at Ishnomaki, Miyagi. As yet there is no news of damage from these waves. It’s thought that they will not be high enough to cause major damage at this time.

The map below shows the area where the tsunami warning was issued.

Tsunami warnings from Japan earthquake

Tsunami warnings from Japan earthquake

Nuclear power plants:

While the Fukushima plant is in the path of any tsunami waves, at this time it is said to be safe with no damage caused by shaking from the quake either. The plants workers have been evacuated to a reinforced building within the complex as a precaution.

Nuclear operator TEPCO has issued a statement saying that they have not detected anything unusual at any of their nuclear plants following this quake event.

Damage probability:

The quake is said to have measured a ‘lower 5’ in Miyagi prefecture on the Japanese shake scale, the area closest to the epicentre. According to the accepted earthquake shaking scales, this could mean some damage to houses or roads which are not quake resistant. In Tokyo it is said to have measured 4 on this scale.

Miyagi prefectural police have issued a statement saying there are no immediate reports of damage.

Sony, Honda and Renesas Electronics have all said there has been no damage at any of their facilities in the area.

Insurance and reinsurance industry impact:

There may be some insurance claims resulting from light damage caused by the earthquake, and possibly from the tsunami in any areas where that came ashore, however these are expected to be minimal. The minimal nature of insurance claims should mean that reinsurers are not impacted.

There are a number of catastrophe bonds with Japanese earthquake exposure, including parametric bonds, but given the location of the epicenter, this quake will not trouble them.

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